BT has announced a £1.5bn scheme to roll out super-fast broadband to as many as 10 million homes by 2012.
It says the fibre-based broadband will deliver top speeds of between at between 40 and 100 megabits per second (Mbps), adding that speeds could rise to 1,000Mbps in the future.
Typical speeds now are up to 8Mbps, although some companies have introduced speeds of up to 24Mbps.
BT says fibre-based super-fast broadband will allow customers to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at once.
This would, for example, allow some members of a family to watch different high-definition movies while others were playing games or working on complex graphics or video projects.
It would also substantially improve upstream speeds, allowing customers to post videos and enjoy interactive high definition games to the full.
But BT said the investment was dependent on a ‘supportive and enduring’ regulatory environment and it will be discussing its plans with media regulator Ofcom.
The telecoms provider said: ‘BT will be discussing with Ofcom the conditions that would be necessary to enable this programme to progress.
‘These include removing current barriers to investment and making sure that anyone who chooses to invest in fibre can earn a fair rate of return for their shareholders.’
BT said it would make the service available on an equivalent basis to all communication providers, adding that it wants to work with local and regional bodies to decide where and when it should focus the deployment of super-fast broadband.
BT chief executive Ian Livingston said: ‘Broadband has boosted the UK economy and is now an essential part of our customers’ lives.
‘This is a bold step by BT and we need others to be just as bold. We are keen to partner with people who share our vision for the next phase of the broadband revolution.’
High definition TV
BT says it doesn’t want fibre broadband to be just confined to major cities but also available in rural areas.
It also maintains there will be a further roll-out if there is sufficient interest and demand and it can make an adequate return on its investment.
It says those parts of the UK which wont be able to access fibre-broadband will be served by copper-based ADSL2+.
This service offers speeds of up to 24Mb which BT maintains will be sufficient for services such as high definition TV.
Which? technology editor Matthew Bath said: ‘The investment by BT in a broadband network seems attractive, but there are still unanswered questions about the scheme.
‘In order to get a return on its broadband investment, a new regulatory framework would be needed that could disadvantage other broadband providers, harming consumer choice.
‘BT’s goal of 10 million homes – around 40% of the population – sounds impressive, but it would still leave large swathes of the country stuck in the broadband slow lane, especially in rural and remote areas.’